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Organ-transplant scandals

March 07, 2007

Doctors, not vultures," editorial, March 3

I disagree with the logic presented in this editorial -- that the public responds to crises such as the one involving Ruben Navarro by increasing its willingness to donate [organs for transplant]. It is a leap of logic to cite the record pace of California registrations as evidence that the publicity around this event has reminded the public about the need for donors. Unless we look at the daily percentage of people registering at the California Department of Motor Vehicles immediately before and after the event, no connection can be drawn. However, if registrations did not drop, there is no way of telling how much they might have increased if the event had not happened.

I am most concerned about TV legal and medical shows that can now legitimately claim their plots were based on real-life events. A series of recent studies indicates that the public is less likely to be willing to donate after viewing entertainment episodes that feed common myths about donation.

In the aftermath of this unfortunate and as yet uninvestigated event, I would like to call for restraint on the part of the entertainment industry. Hollywood will surely be tempted to use this as an opportunity to profit from inflaming public fears about donation by dramatizing one of the worst fears. Such actions will come at the cost of the lives of people languishing on the transplant waiting list.

SUSAN E. MORGAN

Associate professor

of communication

Purdue University

West Lafayette, Ind.

*

Your editorial correctly identified "too few donors for too many waiting recipients" as a problem behind the recent organ-transplant scandals. There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage: Give organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

Giving organs first to organ donors will persuade more people to register as organ donors and will make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren't willing to donate should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

DAVID J. UNDIS

Executive director

LifeSharers

Nashville

*

For those of us in the throes of the life created by failing organs, we appreciate the diligence of The Times' research and reporting of transplant and donor programs and procedures that have failed. Medical programs that lack the skills and ethics needed to protect all of their patients should be exposed. There are few medical programs, however, that depend so heavily on public perception as do transplant programs. It concerns me that too much reporting of failed programs without the balance of reporting on the successes that occur every day will discourage those who might otherwise decide to be a donor.

Each donor can save or improve the lives of numerous recipients. We cannot afford for a single person considering donation to be discouraged.

LYNN JAMES

San Luis Obispo

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